Somali pirates free UK-flagged ship after ransom

Somali pirates have released a British-flagged ship they seized on 1 January, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said on yesterday, and the European Union Naval Force said the release came after a ransom was paid.

"The Asian Glory, which has eight Bulgarian sailors on board, has been freed from pirate captivity. The ship is expected to head to Oman, escorted by a British warship," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry and the Zodiac Maritime Agency, which manages the ship that carries vehicles, had declined to say whether a ransom had been paid for the release of the ship and its crew, comprising 25 members - eight Bulgarian, 10 Ukrainian, five Indian and two Romanian.

But the naval force, EUNAVFOR, said an unknown amount was paid out to the pirates holding the vessel.

"On 11 June 2010, a ransom drop was made to the pirate group holding the merchant vessel Asian Glory at anchor in the vicinity of Garacad on the eastern coast of Somalia," it said in a statement on its website.

A pirate and one Garacad resident, Ahmed Jamaa, put the ransom at $5.8 million (£4m).

"We received $5.8 million ransom and we released the ship," Muuse, one of the pirates who had been aboard Asian Glory, told Reuters by telephone.

Zodiac said in a statement on its website that all crew members were well, but declined to provide further details.

The 45,000-tonne Asian Glory was seized in the Indian Ocean, about 600 miles east of the Somali coast.

Somali pirates have made tens of millions of dollars from seizing ships for ransom in the Gulf of Aden, linking Europe to Asia, and were also hunting far into the Indian Ocean to evade foreign navies sent to protect commercial shipping.